At what other people felt was the height of his career, Dave Chappelle stepped away from a $50 million dollar deal to keep his hit, Chappelle’s Show, running on Comedy Central. Many assumed that Chappelle had a nervous breakdown after he departed the series indefinitely during production to travel to South Africa and gain some clarity. But as he told Gayle King in his new CBS This Morning interview, his mind was quite clear, instead, it was his emotional state that was clouded.
“I was talkin’ to a guy, he basically said to me that comedy is a reconciliation of paradox,” Chappelle said. “And I think that that was a irreconcilable moment for me. That I was in this very successful place, but the emotional content of it didn’t feel anything like what I imagined success should feel like. It just didn’t feel right.”
When asked by King if he missed the critically-acclaimed series, Chappelle said yes, but compared it to a toxic ex-girlfriend.
“Chappelle’s Show’s’ like breakin’ up with a girl and you still like her,” he said. “But in your mind you’re like, ‘That b—h is crazy. I’m not goin’ back.’”
Chapelle also noted that there are certain things about working with network television, specifically Comedy Central, that he doesn’t miss. So the fact that stars, like Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, were offered opportunities on the network and given certain liberties, or “conventions” that he was was denied, is a reminder of that part of the game he doesn’t miss.
“I fought the network very hard so that those conventions could come to fruition,” he said. “So, like the first episode I do, that black white supremacist sketch. And it’s like, ‘Well, that’s 10 minutes long. It should be five minutes long.’ Why should it be five minutes long? Like, these types of conventions. I fought very hard. So when I watch Key & Peele and I see they’re doing a format that I created, and at the end of the show, it says, ‘Created by Key & Peele,’ that hurts my feelings.”
But ever since leaving the show, he’s been working, and consistently. He reminded everyone that he’s a force on the standup scene, nabbing himself a $60 million dollar deal with Netflix that surpassed the deal Comedy Central was trying to offer more than a decade ago.
“I found an altitude I was comfortable with. I found a way that – to do what I liked to do and avoid some of the parts of it that I was uncomfortable with,” he said. Those “parts” include working himself silly and not being able to have a close relationship with his wife and kids.
“Well, I mean, if you look at me, right, physically – now, I’m, like, 40 pounds heavier than I was when I did Chappelle’s Show,” Chappelle said. “And people are like, ‘How did you gain all that weight?’ By resting and eatin’ and payin’ attention to myself. I have actual relationships with my kids. I’ve been all over the country, touring all my life. But I never saw anything. Now I’ve seen everything. I could talk to people or I could – I had time to stop if someone said they liked me. It wasn’t like I brushed past ’em like, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’ I had time to stop like, ‘You do?’ You know what I mean? It’s like – it was just, like, the way that I engaged the world was different.”
You can hear more about Chappelle’s new way of looking at the world in his Netflix specials, which premiere Tuesday, March 21.